Playoffs Tonight: Sharks aim to sweep Canucks

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This should be an eventful night. We got two series that have been great clashes at 7:00 p.m. ET and we’ll end the night with the first match of the playoffs that’s a must-win for one of the teams.

Before we go into detail about the coming attractions, keep in mind that you can watch all these games online in addition to the channels listed below:

Game 4: New York Islanders host Pittsburgh Penguins (7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Penguins lead series 2-1

The New York Islanders have shown over the last two games that they’re capable of matching the Penguins goal-for-goal. That’s impressive considering they’re a young, eighth seed team with several core players that had no postseason experience going into this series.

They fell short in Game 3, but at least they kept things interesting.

“If you’re satisfied with just being able to compete, that’s a recipe for losing,” Islanders forward Josh Bailey told Newsday. “We’re not here to try and hang with them and go home having put up a good fight. We’re here to win.”

If the Islanders want something more than a moral victory, they’ll need to play a very disciplined game. Thus far, they’ve been unable to contain the Penguins when Pittsburgh has the man advantage and it’s been the difference in this series.

Game 4: Ottawa Senators host Montreal Canadiens (7:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Senators lead series 2-1

These two teams combined for 210 penalty minutes in the third period of Ottawa’s 6-1 victory on Sunday. There were eight game misconducts, a questionable elbowing, more postgame verbal sparring between the coaches, but no suspensions were handed out.

In other words, almost all of the same players will be on hand for what’s likely to be another heated and gritty game tonight. On top of that Ottawa defenseman Eric Gryba is likely to play after serving his two-game suspension for his hit that hospitalized Montreal forward Lars Eller.

How the Canadiens will react to Gryba given everything that’s happened since is something Senators coach Paul MacLean “will be interested to see.”

Of course, as physical as this game might be, Montreal obviously needs a win far more than they need to make a statement.

Game 4: Minnesota Wild host Chicago Blackhawks
Blackhawks lead series 2-1

Minnesota Wild Jason Zucker had just four career NHL goals going into the playoffs. On Sunday, he came up big, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to put the Wild back in this series.

Prior to that contest, Wild coach Mike Yeo talked about his team’s need to get “desperate” and the need to hate the Blackhawks. After suffering their first loss of the postseason, Blackhawks bench boss Joel Quenneville would like to see the same from his club.

“We want to make sure we have more urgency to our game, more directness, and the passion that comes with playoff hockey,” Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “I’d like to see a very intense team. You watch other playoff series, you can see whether it’s the animosity, the hatred, the battles, that’s playoff hockey. That’s the level we have to get to and go from there.”

We’ll see which team is able to play with more urgency tonight.

Game 4: San Jose Sharks host Vancouver Canucks
Sharks lead series 3-0

After coming just one game short of the Stanley Cup in 2011, the Canucks are on the brink of being eliminated in the first round for the second straight year.

It will be interesting to see which goaltender the Vancouver Canucks go with in this contest. Cory Schneider was injured going into this series, so they went with Roberto Luongo, who held his own despite losing the first two games. Schneider was healthy for Game 3, so the Canucks had him start over Luongo, but Schneider ended up getting yanked after allowing five goals.

To pour salt in the wound, Sharks captain Joe Thornton said that they felt “lucky not to play against Lou.”

Of course, who the Canucks go with between the pipes will be moot if the rest of the team doesn’t step up. They’ve scored just four goals in three games.

Austin Watson suspended two games for boarding Dominic Toninato

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is working overtime on Sunday night, as they’ve handed out a pair of suspensions.

Moments after announcing Radko Gudas’ 10-game suspension, the league handed a two-game ban to Predators forward Austin Watson for boarding Avs rookie Dominic Toninato.

Unlike Gudas, Watson has no history of being fined or suspended during his NHL career.

Here’s the league’s full explanation of their decision to suspend Watson:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slashing Mathieu Perreault over the head

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We all knew that Radko Gudas would receive a suspension for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault‘s head, but we didn’t know how long he’d be forced to sit out.

On Sunday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Gudas has been suspended for 10 games for the incident.

The league confirmed that the fact that the Flyers defenseman is a repeat offender played against him in this case.

Check out the Department of Player Safety’s full explanation of the suspension:

The suspension will also cost him just over $408,000 in salary, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Ouch!

“He got the meaty part of the neck,” Perreault said after the game, per TSN.ca  “It could have been worse, I guess.

“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”

Gudas served the first game of the suspension on Saturday. He’ll be eligible to return to the Flyers lineup on on Dec. 12 against Toronto.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers will host Penguins in outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019

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The battle of Pennsylvania will take a new twist, as the NHL announced that the Philadelphia Flyers will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) on Feb. 23, 2019.

This will be the second time that these two teams play each other in an outdoor game. Last season, the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s always a special opportunity to take the game back to its roots and have NHL players skate outdoors,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a release. “We competed against the Flyers outdoors at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh 2017 and look forward to completing the in-state ‘home-and-home’ series at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. It should be a great atmosphere.”

This will be the fifth time that the Penguins are involved in an outdoor door since 2008. They won a shootout decision against Buffalo (2008), they lost a home game to Washington (2011), they lost in Chicago (2014) and they beat the Flyers earlier this year.

It’s the second time the Flyers host an outdoor game (the first one was at Citizens Bank Park baseball stadium). The game at Lincoln Financial Field will be the fourth outdoor game for the Flyers. They lost in Boston in overtime (2010), they dropped home decision to the Rangers (2012), and they had the loss to Pittsburgh last year.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Is it time for the Canadiens to blow up their roster?

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The 2017-18 season isn’t even two months old, and the Montreal Canadiens already find themselves at a crossroads. Is it time for them to start rebuilding?

The Canadiens, who are 8-11-2 after three straight losses to Columbus, Arizona and Toronto, have over $7 million in cap space, but they have nowhere to use it. They already traded a blue-chip prospect in Mikhail Sergachev over the summer, and it’s not like their prospect pipeline is overflowing with quality either.

Clearly, losing Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov (for nothing) hurt this edition of the Canadiens.

The team just completed a six-game homestand  that they should have used to make up for their incredibly poor start to the year. Instead, they finished the stretch at the Bell Center with a mediocre 2-3-1 record (they barely beat Vegas and Buffalo, who were both playing their second game in two nights when they took on Montreal).

During the six-game home stretch, they managed to find the back of the net just 10 times (four of those goals came in the 5-4 loss to the Coyotes).

Up until this point, general manager Marc Bergevin has been unwilling to trade away his veterans for prospects and/or draft picks. That might be about to change, per Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.

On Saturday’s “Headlines” segment, Kypreos mentioned that ownership and the front office will have a discussion about the direction of the team.

The one player that was singled out on the broadcast was Max Pacioretty, who has one year remaining (after this season) on his current contract.

Would the Canadiens be willing to move him? Maybe, but would they do so with the idea of a rebuild in mind? That remains to be seen.

You have to believe that Bergevin’s on thin ice. Despite being under contract until 2022, he has to be feeling the pressure right now. Montreal is a demanding hockey market, and although they have plenty of cap space, this team clearly isn’t better than it was last year.

The core is far from terrible. Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin are all quality hockey players, but they don’t have much depth up front and their defense might be one of the worst in the league after Weber. Jeff Petry has struggled, the contract they handed out to Karl Alzner appears to be a mistake, Jordie Benn, Joe Morrow and Brandon Davidson are all depth players, and Victor Mete is a promising 19-year-old that’s had his ice time cut lately.

When it comes to the center ice position, the Canadiens are still searching for answers. Drouin has been forced to learn on the job, which is far from ideal for a number one center. Behind him, there’s Phillip Danault and Tomas Plekanec, who are both better suited to be third liners.

In order to become one of the elite teams in the NHL, the Canadiens have to take a step back over the next couple of years. They might not have to rebuild from scratch because they do have key pieces, but the roster definitely needs a lot of work.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.